Sunday, August 26, 2012

Reception for "The Canopy"

(Above: The Canopy's reception. Click on any image in this blog post for an enlargement.)

Last Friday night was the art reception for my August residency work at Studios Midwest, a program administered by the Galesburg Civic Art Center in Galesburg, Illinois. It was held in "The Box", a privately owned urban warehouse that has been renovated for studio and exhibition space. For the past month I've been working in this very location ... stitching 180 square feet of a canopy directly under where I hoisted it.

Earlier blog posts have covered the construction and the method of raising The Canopy. As pictured, it is 12' in height, 10' in width, and 18' long. I took plenty of early photos ... being very careful to exclude the two wooden beams in the room and any other extraneous distractions. While these are nice photos, they lack a true sense of scale. Thus, my husband Steve (who flew to Peoria on Thursday night ... Atlanta to Dallas to Minneapolis to Peoria) took photos at the reception. He tried to capture people under The Canopy ... for scale, for atmosphere, and for fun!

Thus, I'm in several of the images ... including the one above where I'm talking to Mark Holmes, the head of the Knox College Art Department and owner of "The Box", his wife, and Joanie ... who, along with her boss Dennis Johnson, became my best friends in Galesburg! They are the team at Johnson's Wallpaper, a business elsewhere at "The Box".

The reception was hosted by the Galesburg Civic Art Center under Heather Norman, its director. Heather had a lovely spread of finger food, water, and wine which was near the public sock art quilt and the door into the space. (Above)

Steve also took two videos. I've posted them on UTube. One of the actual canopy is HERE.
Steve's other video captures a few moments of the reception and is HERE.

Just off the main exhibition space is the smaller studio where I also worked. On display was an art quilt (folded on the chair). It has the rubbings made from Carl Sandburg's Remembrance Rock. After finishing The Canopy, I put this piece together, did the free motion machine embroidery around all the letters, and started the hand stitching for the background. (I stitched on it for the entire drive back to Columbia, South Carolina too!) On the table is a small antique chest filled with wrapped and stitched wooden thread spools. Some of these were my demonstration pieces at the Fifth Annual Clay and Fiber Festival in Bishop Hill the weekend before last.

After the reception and dinner, Steve and I returned to "The Box". It took only one hour for us to take down all the photos, a series of dolls, and The Canopy and pack them into our car! The next morning we headed south and east. Now I'm back in Columbia, South Carolina ... filled with all sort of ideas for new work.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Looking For a Mate in Galesburg and KCCDD

(Above: Looking for a Mate in Galesburg, a unique sock art quilt. 55" x 55". "Mateless" socks donated to the public on recycled felt. Click on this or any image in this blog post for an enlargement.)

One of the missions of the Studios Midwest program is for artists-in-residence to conduct a public art project. They put it this way:

Studios Midwest brings artists to Galesburg, Illinois to engage and impact the community through creative and collab­o­rative art. The program works with each artist to create an envi­ronment ripe for the emerging trend of art and social practice. Distinct from modern art of the twentieth century, social practice builds on a variety of contem­porary art move­ments while incor­po­rating elements of soci­ology, anthro­pology, social work, envi­ron­men­talism, and community outreach.

I put it in SOCKS!

(Above: Looking For a Mate in Galesburg with a clothesline of "mateless" socks.)

Even before I arrived, the public was invited to donate their "mateless" socks. There was a newspaper article printed during my first week in Illinois. The work was also shown during "First Friday" on Seminary Street. On Tuesday and Thursday evenings during the residency, I was at the Galesburg Civic Art Center holding a "new age" quilting bee with community volunteers. I've blogged about it HERE. Well, the piece is finished, mounted, and hanging in the foyer of "The Box", the exhibition space where created my giant canopy. Both my residency work (The Canopy) and this public sock art quilt will enjoy a reception this coming Friday night, August 24th from 6 - 8 PM.

(Above: Creating a clothesline of "mateless" socks with clients of KCCDD, a private agency providing day programming for adults with disabilities.)

There were, however, extra socks! Leftover and "mateless"! What to do?

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to create a clothesline of socks with clients of KCDD, a private agency providing day programming for adults with disabilities. I went on Tuesday morning and within a hour we were heavily into stitching and knotting all the socks. The conversation was lively. Everyone was successful in attaching the socks ... even a staff person learned a new way to thread a needle! We made short work of this attractive decoration. It is now proudly hanging overhead in the foyer of The Box, a perfect compliment to the public sock art quilt.

My contact person was Lisa Stephens who has been a long time supporter of Studios Midwest.

I can honestly say that only one sock came detached after the hour at KCCDD ... and that likely happened as a result of untangling it for hanging! It was truly my privilege to work with this agency ... and to spread the love of stitching and quilting to a new group of people!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


(Above: The Canopy ... complete with fringed ends! Click on this and any other image in this blog post for an enlargement.)

The giant canopy was constructed and raised in record time here in The Box at the corner of S. Kellogg and E. Simmons. The extra time allowed me to create fringe. Honestly, I didn't think I'd get so far but I did. I also thought I'd never say it but I'm almost completely out of crochet and lace!

(Above: The first section of fringe pinned to the provided, smaller studio space at The Box with the second section on the table nearby.)

I did have enough remnant crochet and lace to create fringe for the two 10' ends of the canopy! I just love this frilly detail on a canopy!

(Above: Me on the big ladder attaching the fringe.)

I guess I could have lowered the canopy, attached the fringe, and re-hoisted it ... but that seemed like lots more effort, risky, and more time consuming than just working on the big ladder. I needed several breaks to move the ladder but also to restore blood circulation to my arms. In the photo above, I'm standing a rung higher than was optimal in order to see where the stitches needed to be placed. The photo was taken with the camera on a tripod and set for a delayed shot ... and I went up a step further than normal. Generally, I stitched from a step lower ... with my arms up! I also basted the extra bridal tulle and netting back along the sides of the canopy ... neatening up the piece. Frankly ... I think it looks great! Now it is totally finished! Yippee!

(Above: Detail of the fringe on The Canopy. Click on this or any other photo to enlarge.)

So now it is complete and really ready for Friday night's reception. I'm now finishing up the sock art quilt which was the public art project here in Galesburg. This morning I spent an hour with KCCDD, an organization serving adults with disabilities. We stitched almost all the extra "mateless" socks to a clothes line that will serve as decoration around the public art quilt this Friday night. (My next post will be on this project ... as soon as I receive the "thumbs up" on photo releases!)

(Above: The Canopy.)

Now ... one more thing! The is not really "the end" of the canopy. In a sense, it is the BEGINNING! I view this artwork as the catalyst for other work responding to this, central piece. So ... thank you to those who have taken the time to answer these questions:

What does a canopy mean to you?
Do you have special memories/dreams about a canopy?

Please leave a comment or email me at I have one of my "foggy visions" of the future work and am sifting through ideas that include all the lace collars that I didn't use in the canopy construction. I "see" them on simple, wire coat hangers with strips of paper/fabric hanging from them ... perhaps in a figurative shape and including paraphrased words collected from all sorts of people, maybe stitched or maybe collaged or maybe a little of both. Vintage anonymous photos might work their way into this idea too ... all for artwork to one day hang on the walls surrounding the canopy.

On Friday night there will be a box and index cards for visitors to write their impressions. (THANK YOU GALESBURG CIVIC ART CENTER for providing the box and index cards!) I'm already saving emails in a special folder. This is just the beginning of something new and meaningful! Thanks!

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Canopy is UP!

(Above: The Canopy. Click on any image for an enlargement.)

Although help was available, I opted to install my giant canopy alone. Why? Well, I had "a plan" but it was full of potential problems and I was nervous! How can one direct and installation when the exact steps required were all hypothetical? Fortunately, everything went according to plan and I really enjoyed watching my vision become a reality!

(Above: Stitching chiffon tubes of fabric to the reverse of the canopy.)

Before raising the canopy, I had plenty of work to do. Five chiffon tubes of fabric were created and stitched to the reverse side. Through these fabric tubes I placed 1" in diameter PVC tubes and wire. Using the extra tall ladder at The Box, I was able to hoist the piece overhead.

(Above: Installation begins in The Box).

I wrote a very detailed explanation of this process and also posted plenty of images of the finished canopy on my blog. CLICK HERE to access. Now ... the reception for this work is next Friday, August 24th from 6 - 8. My public sock art quilt is also nearly finished and will also be on display at this time. I can't wait to snap photos with people UNDER the canopy!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Laptop setback is over and lots of artistic work is in progress!

(Above: Stitching on the giant canopy of vintage crochet, lace, and household linens at The Box. Click on this or any photo in this blog post for an enlargement.)

I very much intended to blog about my residency every third or fourth day since my arrival. Unfortunately the day after my initial blog post, my laptop died. Panic set in until I found Dr. Mike Computer Therapist just a block away. We had some difficulties with an on-line order but finally got a new laptop shipped from my husband back in South Carolina. Then things got worse. Dr. Mike's mother unexpectedly died in Tennessee. More than a week passed before the new machine was up and running with all my accustomed programs and recovered documents.

(Above: Dr. Mike Computer Therapist ... to the rescue!)

Yet ... I can already tell that I'm going to LOVE this new laptop. Thank you, Dr. Mike, for your wonderful assistance and hard work at a difficult time. (He even had a "Looking for a Mate" sock art quilt flyer in his shop window! To ready more about this ordeal ... CLICK HERE!)

(Above: The first "Sock Nite" in the Blick Gallery in the Galesburg Civic Art Center. Please note that my "prototype" is hanging in the background. I wanted to make sure that the first people donating socks would have some idea as to what we'd be making!)

So ... what have I been up to during my "laptop emergency"? SOCK NITE!

Every Tuesday and Thursday from 6 - 8 PM in the Blick Gallery in the Galesburg Civic Art Center is "Sock Nite". The public has been invited to bring their "mateless" sock and help in the design and construction of a unique art quilt. The photo above is from the first evening. Plenty of socks had previously been dropped off at GCAC. Studios Midwest's July artist-in-residence Genevieve Waller (seated on the left) came to help with the initial layout of the socks. Two days later, stitching began. By the way, Ariel Cheung wrote a great newspaper article on this project for the Register-Mail. It can be read HERE. Thanks, Ariel!

(Above: "First Friday" on Seminary Street with Heather Norman and the art quilt in progress. Photo by David Gutierrez.)

Heather Norman arranged for both my "prototype" and the public art quilt in progress to be part of "First Friday" on Seminary Street. It was great fun to meet some of the friendly people of Galesburg ... most of whom had read the newspaper article and were happy to see the piece under construction.

(Above: Fourth "Sock Nite" and stitching is well under way.)

Less than a week later, the entire top is covered with donated, "mateless" socks being stitched by local volunteers.

(One of the people invited to the special donor reception taking a few stitches on the sock art quilt.)

Even people invited to a special donor reception at the Galesburg Civic Art Center sat down to ply a few stitches! Everyone seems willing to help with this project ... staff, board members, volunteers, and the general public. Galesburg is full of nice people and colorful but "mateless" socks. (Personally, I'm surprised at how many pink socks we have on this piece! To read about this project on my personal blog, click HERE.)

(Above: A donor appreciation function at the Galesburg Civic Art Center.)

There seems to always be something happening at the Galesburg Civic Art Center. I've been here just over two weeks and already both galleries have completely changed exhibitions, two functions were held, and there was "First Friday". What an exciting place ... so full of great art and talented artists!

(Above: The Members and Friends Exhibition reception on Saturday, August 4th.)

I met plenty of local talent during the Members and Friends Exhibition reception. The juror, Mike Godsil, presented awards and gave an inspired statement for the entire show.

(Above: The start of the four fiber bedposts.)

Now please don't think I'm just hanging out at art parties here in Galesburg! Far from it! I've been in my provided studio space at "The Box" every day. After sorting all the vintage crochet, lace, and household linens that I brought with me, I began work on the four fiber bedposts that will hang from the corners of the giant canopy. Using three yard lengths of upholstery cord tied to a overhead pipe, I was able to work upwards in stitches.

(Above: Four fiber bedposts under construction ... with a table, chair, and a ladder to reach the top!)

At first I stood on the floor, then on a folding chair, then on a ladder, then on the chair atop the sturdy table, and finally on the ladder atop the table! Up and up I stitched until all four cords were covered with the crochet and lace trim. It was beautiful to watch my mental vision become a reality.

(Above: Looking up at the first two fiber bedposts.)

Each fiber bedpost is now approximately ten feet in length. They are all still tied to the overhead pipe and will remain there until I'm ready to attach them to the corners of the giant canopy.

(Above: Detail of the fiber bedposts.)

There's every sort of ribbon, handmade, machine made, white and off-white lace attached with four to eight stitches each to the upholstery cord. Once I finished these, it was time to tackle the canopy.

(Above: Substrata of layers of ultra thin bridal tulle and heavier white netting taped to the floor with piles of vintage crochet and lace and a plate of 1600 pins.)

I lay out and taped down three layers of ultra thin bridal tulle and white netting on the cement floor at The Box. It measures 10' x 18'. The PVC pipe shown in front of this substrata is one of the rods that will be used to hoist the canopy aloft. Then I brought out piles of vintage crochet, lace, and household linens and a paper plate with 1600 newly purchased straight pins.

(Above: The giant canopy in the midst of the design process.)

It took seven and a half hours to select and place all the vintage materials and use the 1600 pins. Believe it or not, 1600 pins was only enough for approximately 40% of the 180 square feet! What I didn't realize that I was doing was too much exercise, too many "up and down" motions that are otherwise known as "squats". By the next morning, I thought I might physically die. I couldn't really walk; I hobbled in pain ... but the canopy's design sure looked nice! I am really, really pleased with it.

(Above: The giant canopy ... laid out and ready to be stitched.)

Of course, it was now time to stitch all these pieces to the substrata ... on the floor. After the first day of trying to keep my back in an upright position while plying a chenille needle on the floor, I was almost sure I was going to die. "Something" had to change!

(Above: Makeshift stitching table ... aka two glass bricks and an old shelf!)

That "something" is a makeshift stitching table fashioned from two glass bricks and an old shelf found in the storage area at The Box. Now stitching is going very, very smoothly. In fact, I'm over halfway complete! My body has forgiven me for the earlier experiences and I'm excited to be working on this piece every day! To read more about the canopy's design process and initial construction, CLICK HERE ... more photos too!

(Above: Me stitching at my makeshift table.)

Please note the great lighting, my straight and comfortable back, and all the wonderful space at The Box! Also ... there are framed photos on the wall!

(Above: Thirty-five doll photos.)

I brought thirty-five framed photos of dolls with me. I also brought a framed conceptual statement for the space in which I'm working. It is below. I would love to hear from people in Galesburg and elsewhere as to what a canopy means to them. I can be emailed at!

The Canopy

Susan Lenz is very grateful for this opportunity to create a large-scale, fiber artwork during this artist residency. The canopy under construction is larger than Susan’s studio in Columbia, South Carolina. She has been collecting vintage crochet, lace, and household linens for more than a year.

A canopy bed is an iconic symbol from fairy-tales, dreams, childhood, romance novels, historical interiors, and personal furnishings. It means different things to different people. Despite modern technology and changes in advertisements and parenting practices, most little girls in America still dream of a canopy bed … like their mothers did, like their grandmothers did. For some, a canopy bed represents the security of the womb. For others, a canopy bed represents an ideal or a “Happily Ever After” promise for the future. Canopies represent protection but also sexual fulfillment or marital bliss.

Canopy beds are frequently associated with the preciousness of feminine childhood, a concept largely manufactured by an adult society. In it, the idealized girl carries all the dreams for her parents. So, is this magical sleeping arrangement really the child’s desire or is it projected by the hopes of adults? So often, childhood memories are searched as an explanation of adult discontent. How does the fantasy of a canopy bed figure into the loss of happiness?

Personally, Susan is interested in the concept of childhood memories, especially how the canopy bed seems to stay part of little girls’ collective desires through generations. Toys, playtime, hopes for the future, stereotypical gender roles, adult nostalgia, a parent’s vision for an archetype child, and the threads that stitch together fairy-tales are important to this ongoing project.

During the month of August, Susan Lenz’s canopy is meant to stimulate conversation with regards to all possible associations for a canopy bed. Please feel free to share interpretations and stories with her. What does a canopy bed mean to you? Did you want one as a child? Have you ever slept under one? Do you have a special memory about a canopy bed?

Susan Lenz

Susan is sharing her residency on her blog and on the Galesburg Civic Art Center’s residency blog.

(Above: Clock cupola at the Heritage Museum in Bishop Hill, Illinois.)

Of course I've got the other half of the canopy to stitch this coming week ... but I also have another engagement. It came about when I went to nearby Bishop Hill on Saturday, August 4th. I loved touring all the buildings in this National Historic Landmark that had once been the 19th c. Swedish utopian colony. I especially enjoyed meeting some talented artisans at the Prairie Art Center who invited me to demonstrate hand stitching at the upcoming Fifth Annual Clay and Fiber Festival on Saturday, August 18th. I said YES in a heart beat!

(Above: Weaver at the Prairie Art Center in Bishop Hill.)

Bishop Hill is charming ... really, really wonderful and totally picturesque. To read more about it on my blog, CLICK HERE or to view the 106 photos I actually saved from the day, click HERE for a Flickr! set. I can't wait to return. I will, of course, be representing Studios Midwest and the Galesburg Civic Art Center!

(Above: Broom maker at the Prairie Art Center in Bishop Hill.)

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Start of an August art residency with Susan Lenz

(Above: Sorting vintage and antique linens on Day 1 at Studios Midwest. Click on any image in this blog post for an enlargement.)

Let me first introduce myself! My name is Susan Lenz. I'm a contemporary embroiderer and budding installation artist from Columbia, South Carolina. I'm excited to be spending nearly a month with Studios Midwest. This is an important opportunity! I'll be creating a large scale work that is much bigger than my studio at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios. I've been dreaming of this piece for nearly two years and during this "gestation period" have collected all sorts of vintage and antique crochet, lace, and household linens for the project. Within the next couple of weeks, all these materials will be transformed into a giant canopy approximately 10' x 18'. It is about to happen due to the generosity found through the Galesburg Civic Arts Center and people like Mark Holmes, Chair of the Art Department at Knox College and owner of the unique " The Box" exhibition space and studios.

(Above: Mark Holmes in his Galesburg studio.)

Mr. Holmes purchased a large, downtown warehouse in Galesburg several years ago. His spacious sculpture studio occupies a large portion of the building. Johnson's Wallcoverings is also located under the roof but a large section is a dedicated exhibition area with two attached studios. During the academic year, Mr. Holmes encourages his students to explore installation work. During the summer, Mr. Holmes allows Studios Midwest to use a studio for an artist-in-resident who also gets to build a show! I'm just that person for August!

(Above: My elder son Mathias Lenz Dingman and our packed vehicle upon arrival day.)

Now ... let me back up a bit! My son Mathias (a newly promoted "senior soloist" with Birmingham Royal Ballet in England) has been visiting the USA for the first time in two years. He was available to drive me from South Carolina to Illinois! He's since flown on to visit my parents in Pennsylvania. Yet, we had nearly two days to explore Galesburg. I've blogged about it HERE and HERE. These blog posts include our visit to Studios Midwest sponsor Dick Blick but also trips to the Carl Sandburg Historic Birthplace, Knox College, local shops, and even a hot air balloon event at nearby Lake Storey.

(Above: The Mansion, an apartment complex used by Studios Midwest for residency housing.)

Of course one of the first things we did was to move into the provided, two bedroom apartment. It is located within four easy blocks of "The Box" and about that close to the Galesburg Civic Art Center. The location couldn't be more perfect. The grocery store was within an easy drive. Galesburg's downtown historic shopping street, Seminary Street, was a real treat too.

(Above and further below: Photos of the studio floor at "The Box".)

One of the most wonderful things about a residency program is the uninterrupted blocks of working time. This is like a "month of Sundays dream come true! Such time allows hair-brained ideas to take form ... like playing with settings on a camera in order to capture vivid, abstract images of the studio floor before moving into the space!

(Above: Crayon on fabric rubbing.)

Another wonderful thing that has already happened during the first few days of this residence is the inspiration for a new grave rubbing art quilt. (If interested, here's a link to a blog with my other works from this series.) This one has a unique twist. The rubbings come from a non-traditional final resting place ... Carl Sandburg's Remembrance Rock. Sandburg's and his wife's ashes are underneath this boulder, a resting place created as described in his only novel. Around the rock is a walkway of stepping stone into which quotations have been chiseled. (I did ask for permission before making these rubbings!) So ... a totally new, unexpected piece is already underway!

During my stay in Galesburg, I will also be conducting a public art project called "Looking For a Mate". That "MATELESS SOCKS" ! The public is invited to donate their MATELESS SOCKS and also to come and stitch on this unique art quilt ... starting tonight and continuing every Tuesday and Thursday in the Blick Gallery at the Galesburg Civic Art Center from 6 - 8 PM until the work is complete. The piece will become the property of the Art Center! Below is more information.

In the meantime: Here's a link to my WEBSITE
Here's a link to my personal blog which will have even more images of this residency experience! Check back here often for progress reports. If you are in the area during this month, please feel free to drop by "The Box". I enjoy sharing my work whenever possible! Also, come by and stitch on the sock art quilt or just donate your MATELESS SOCKS!

Looking For a Mate” is a community based art project aimed to educate the public about art quilts* by providing an opportunity to participate in the construction of a concept-driven fiber work. The project also includes a strong emphasis on using post-consumer products and incorporates a happy sense of humor. South Carolinian fiber artist Susan Lenz developed this project in 2010. The art quilt created in her hometown of Columbia, now hangs in the City Hall lobby. Eagerly, Susan looks forward to bring this project to Galesburg, Illinois as part of her summer residency with Studios Midwest.

Using donated “mate less” socks on recycled acrylic felt, the art quilt will take form. The recycled felt is a packaging material used by several canoe and kayak distributors who ship their vessels to retail shops all over the United States. The felt is intended to be thrown out after the vessel arrives safely in the store. Susan has been recycling it into various art pieces for several years.

The Galesburg project will began at the Galesburg Civic Arts Center, 114 East Main Street even before Susan’s arrival. The public is invited to bring their “mate less” socks to the Art Center any time or during August’s “First Friday” on Seminary Street, August 3rd. The first “Sock Nite” for designing and stitching the art quilt will be on Tuesday, July 31st from 6 – 8 PM in the Blick Gallery at the Arts Center. Every Tuesday and Thursday until August 21st Susan will host another “Sock Nite” until the art quilt is complete. The finished piece will become the property of the Galesburg Civic Arts Center. Plans are under way for a permanent, public location in which to hang it.

For more information, please contact Heather Norman at or (309) 342-7415. Susan’s website is and she can also be contacted at